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Are Relationships about Software?

Quick question.

Are relationships about software?

Here’s another one.

If you wanted to build a relationship with someone, would you need a computer to do it?

What would you do if you didn’t have a computer?


It wasn’t that many years ago when there weren’t any. PCs didn’t really take off until the early 1980s, and the first Macintosh wasn’t shipped until 1984.

The Internet is even younger. Although it had been used by the US military, as well as a number of universities, the World Wide Web as we know it, wasn’t “online” until 1991. Amazon launched in the summer of 1994; Yahoo followed in the spring of 1995, and Google – the largest search engine on the Web didn’t make its appearance until the autumn of 1998.

You can see easily that much of what we often think as having been around forever is still in its infancy.


What did salespeople do before the Internet and before computers? If they wanted to build relationships with their customers and prospects, then they had to rely on the post, the telephone, or face-to-face meetings.

The funny thing is that these three methods are still in use today. The technology hasn’t obviated the need for them. And that must make you wonder how we got the idea that software could become a substitute for personally developing relationships.

The truth is that, at best, so-called Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can help to manage the relationships by providing reminders to perform various activities, but it’s never an effective alternative to human contact. That’s probably the reason why letters, phone calls and face-to-face meetings have endured. Nothing better has been found.


What does CRM do?

The purpose of CRM software is to help you to identify and comment upon all of the steps that are needed to acquire a lead, turn that person into a customer, and then provide the after-sales service that only you can provide. Its chief advantage is that it enables you to manage this process for a number of customers or prospects simultaneously, even if each person is at a different step in that process. It does this by providing an audit trail of your activity.

If your boss should ask you how a sale is progressing with a particular customer, you can not only demonstrate that with some precision, you can also show how you got there and what your next steps are likely to be. In other words, you can use it to justify how you’ve spent your time.

In addition, it can help you to remember to contact customers that you haven’t spoken to in months or even years. Properly used, a CRM can prevent your clients and prospects from falling through the cracks.

For some salespeople, however, there will always be a risk that the software will take on a life of its own: That it will become the end, rather than a means to an end. The end is the relationship that you build with the clients, or the prospect – whether that person buys or not; but some people get so taken by the software itself that they get lost in it. If you find this happening to you, then discard the programme. It’s not your customer. It will never buy from you.


The most important word

What is the most important word in CRM? It’s relationship. That means that it doesn’t matter what your system is. It could be software, but it could also be a stack of A5 cards in a shoebox. You could still record all of the detail and have the same audit trail by writing down new information after a meeting, email, or other exchange of data.

And here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how much you like the CRM software. If there’s an easier way to keep track of where you are in your various relationships, then why complicate your workload by spending time learning how to use a programme, especially when you probably don’t need and won’t use the majority of its capability?

The bottom line is that if you’re spending your time learning how to use something that is less effective than another method, then you’re leaving money on the table by using it.


Choosing CRM software

Choosing the right CRM software is no different than making any other purchase, whether it’s a slow cooker or a new car. Ideally, you should determine what your needs are, and then buy whatever is the best fit, if it’s necessary to buy anything at all.

For example, if you’re cooking for one or two on a regular basis, then a slow cooker that feeds four to six is too big. It doesn’t matter what the other features are; unless you have a big freezer or don’t mind eating the same thing six days in a row, an appliance of that size exceeds your needs.

And as much fun as it might be to own a Ferrari, if where you live and work won’t let you get out of third gear, what’s the point?

The same thing is true of the CRM system you get. You don’t need all the bells and whistles that are available necessarily. In fact, you may never need them. If you find that in order to get the little bit of capability you need you have to buy a bunch of other stuff that you’ll never use, then find another system. Something as simple as a few spreadsheets with integrated workbooks might actually do the trick. It won’t be as elegant, but what matters is that it works better than anything else.


How to design your own system on the cheap

A useful way to determine how to design your own system is to read about the software that’s available, and then pick the things that you like from each. These are characteristics that you know that you’d use. They’re not things that you think you might need some day.

Then when you know what you want, create the pages in Word or Excel or other software and link them together.

To get a feel for what is available in the various CRM programmes, here’s an article that reviews 25 of them:


Pros of commercial CRM

One pro of commercial CRM is that it’s all done for you. You don’t have to think about how to set it up. It’s all there. All you have to do is configure it for your own use.

You also have the added bonus of some level of technical support.

In addition, it can help you to provide better customer service. This is especially important because that alone is seen as a significant way to differentiate yourself from your competitors.

One way CRM makes this possible is by enabling you to track more people. Spreadsheets work well for a while, but if you have a lot of them to monitor, then that approach can get cumbersome. This then forces you to manage your system; not your time or your business.


Cons of commercial CRM

Most CRMs aren’t sold outright. You have to pay a monthly license fee. This is an effective way for software companies to make money, but it’s expensive for you. In order to keep using the system, you have to keep paying.

The thing is that you don’t have to play that game if you design a system for yourself.

There is open source software, which is free; but tech support is normally only available through a community forum. If you’re in a hurry, you may not be able to get the answer that you want; and it’s possible that no one in the community will have any idea what you should do to fix your problem. That’s another reason why you want to keep the solution you use as simple as possible.

Here’s something else for you to think about. Do you really want to have to spend the time learning how to use something that’s so complicated that you need technical support to make it work? Wouldn’t it make more sense to use something that you understand already?

One thing that is essential to your CRM system is flexibility. It must do what you want it to do. If it gets in the way of your work, then it’s ineffective.

You should be able to manually override anything, and if it doesn’t automatically update itself with the new information that you provide, then it’s keeping you from making sales and cutting into your profit.


CRM still fails a lot of people and for several reasons.

Strategy is still an issue. Part of the problem must be because there’s no agreed definition on what it is; and in the absence of that, everything else is out of alignment as well.

Another problem is that where CRM was implemented company-wide, people didn’t know how to integrate it with everything else. This is fairly typical. The US Government, for example, has a special penchant for buying software that no one can figure out or make work with what already is installed.

A third problem is that people lack the skills to use the new CRM software. Training is essential, and if your company decides to use it, then it’s your responsibility to bring everyone up to speed on it.

And you have to realise that anytime you introduce new software, you are also asking people to change. In other words, it has to be handled in the same way as any other change management initiative. If you fail to prepare the groundwork, then you shouldn’t be surprised when people resist you.

You have to realise, too, that consistently using CRM software requires discipline. It will be all too easy for people to throw up their hands in disgust and go back to the way that they used to do it. This is why it’s so important for you to know in advance what you actually need. When people see that it will help them to easily do things better, then they’ll embrace it. If, however, they find that they have to wade through a lot of other stuff that’s irrelevant to them, they’re likely to abandon it altogether.


Can you blame them?


Your systems shouldn’t make people feel exploited

Your system should never make your customers feel that they are being exploited.

For example, all of us are on many databases. It’s a fact of life. Part of the marketing effort in some companies is to predict what we’ll need and then send us coupons that encourage us to buy things on that basis.

In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, the author mentions an instance in which one company anticipated that someone in a particular household was having a baby. Coupons for products associated with that event were sent to what marketers felt was the expectant mother. It turned out to be the teenage daughter. At first the father was angry and complained to the company. Later he contacted them again to apologise. Apparently, the girl was expecting, but hadn’t told her parents.

Although, if pressed, we know that companies know more about us than we would like them to, we don’t like to be reminded of it.

You have to lead people to buy from you. You have to remind them that they have a problem and that they need what you have to offer, but it may require more subtlety than you expect.


CRM isn’t for everyone

It’s important that you recognise that. The market for this software is growing, but you still have to determine if it is best for you. It doesn’t matter if it worked well for some other company you know or even for another salesperson you are acquainted with.

Ultimately, you have to decide if the pros outweigh the cons. If they don’t, then you have to have the courage of your convictions and do the right thing by scrapping it.

The goal is always to build relationships and there are no prizes for doing it with CRM software. Decide what you need first, then use a system that does that better than anything else.


Click here…If you want your sales team to build more effective and more profitable relationships with your customers and prospects.

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